Thursday, November 04, 2010

Look A Book! Paris 24/7/2010 Day Thirteen

I am determined that today will see the end of this project. Tomorrow is our last day and also the last day of le Tour de France. We don't have VIP tickets or even less than VIP tickets but still we plan to head for the event and see what we can see.

The band is not playing when I begin work on the final pages and I am sad that maybe I only got one day's worth of live Parisian non-stop music. But toward noon they start up and all is well.

The pieces are coming together nicely. I am so anxious for Donna and Hannah to see them. I just know they will be as pleased as I am.

I cannot count the times I need to change my water pots and even clean up the paint saucers aka salad plates that I have appropriated from the apartment, not anticipating using paint at all. But muddy colors are not where this project is going. Bright and colorful is the theme.

Finally the sketches are ready for the fine pencil details which is always my most favorite part. These tiny details make a really nice piece completely special.

I line all the illustrations up on the bed and snap a photo. So much work! Next I take digitals of each one. The double page spreads had to be split for the copying but it will not be difficult to stitch together the two sides of each of these four pages.

I have left plenty of space on every page for copy to be stripped in over non-essential art, such as store walls and such and kept the color there light so that text can seamlessly become part of the art. This is going to be a fun book.

When we stumbled onto the Musique Festival event at St-Germain-des-Prés we were excited to discover that a number of the events were scheduled at the cathedral on our own island. Tonight the Chœur de la Société Philmarmonique de Saint-Petersbourg will be presenting arrangements by Rachmaninov. We have not gotten tickets but want to go if the art allows.

Timing looks good and we dress for our last concert. We travel the few blocks to the church arriving before the ticket seller who turns out to be our new friend. He remembers us. He tells us that tickets are not quite on sale yet and to come back closer to concert time.
We opt for a quick dinner at our downstairs cafe and go back in good time to get excellent seats. Donny is amused at two of the choir members. Their build and stage personality remind him of himself and Dow when they sang in the US Naval Academy Chapel Choir.

After a delightful concert we return to our cafe for café and to say good bye to Daphne. We chat about the divas in the choir. They are so clearly transparent in their bid to outdo each other. Still we are pretty sure that they do not see themselves in this role which makes it maybe funnier.

Dear Paris, we surely are going to miss you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Bit of Color, Paris 23/7/2010 Day Twelve

I am très nervous. The entire project has been a nail biter only but to prove to myself that I can deliver what is in my mind's eye, I am not really sure at all. In the end, I am so pleased with the way the sketches evolve. They are complete joyful fun! Just what I envisioned. Reindeer are my new best animal friend. Santa's girls are a delight to sketch. They have such personality. And Santa has been very cooperative.

For the color my plan is to use the pastels with the huge colors variety at my fingertips, adding a bit of water to the larger areas to create a smooth effect.

I get started on the first sketch and am not unhappy with the results but am not sure. I work with the second sketch and then the double page spread I call the Goodwill Tour. I show Donny what I have. We both feel that it is lacking the touch we want.

I have the watercolors and gauche that I have bought plus the acrylics and new brushes. I turn to the copies having used the originals for the first few attempts. The copy paper is heavy and such a bright white, so beautiful. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I set up the paints and start in. A few sketches later I know I am on the mark. The paper is taking the color well and the bright white enhances every brush stroke. Perfect! I breath a sigh of relief and proceed in earnest. Now that I have found my groove, I am determined to have a least one full day in Paris without any art to do, even touch up.

That means two days to go through all the sketches. My style of painting moves fast but it's the little touches that make the pictures shine which means revisiting each sketch many times and meanwhile finding places for all to dry. The flat looks like an art explosion.

To my utter delight a band has started up and their sounds drift into the open windows. They play on and on. I cannot believe what great fortune. Sure I have playlists on my iPad but live music is so artsy and Parisian.

Many sketches later, we break for one final dinner at our favorite cafe, Auberge de la Reine Blanche. I have made good progress but tomorrow is going to be another long day.

Color me a tired artist.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cruisin' the Seine 22/7/2010 Day Eleven

First thing upon arising we carefully gather up the drawings and head for the copy shop. When we get there we negotiate by gestures what we need and the young clerk indicates that he can do the job but to leave the drawings and come back in a few hours to pick everything up.

We head home to relax venturing back to the shop at the hour suggested.

Our clerk has made a few copies for us before he had to stop for another job. He shows us the results. They look really good. He points to the clock and holds up three fingers. Come back at 3.

We set off to stroll around the Left Bank stopping in at Procope for some cafe and pastry. Sorbets for Donny. Donny is impressed that Stephen Colbert is represented on the menu and iphone mails a photo of the honor, Merlan "Colbert" sauce tartare, but he never hears from the leader of the Colbert Nation.

On our way to Procope we locate a La Poste to mail a post card to a young friend at home collecting cards from around the world and to get some French stamps for our neighbor who is minding the cats. He's an avid collector and these will be fun. We send him a post card too. We have tried to do this from our own little La Poste on the island wanting an Île Saint-Louis postmark but keep finding it closed.  Finally we realize that the notice on the door tells us that it will reopen on August 2nd, not at 2pm as we first thought having only glanced at the sign since the hours are normally short anyway.

Back at Copy Self, we are unsettled to see that our copies have made no progress. Another clerk says that it will be tomorrow. We are not sure what to do. The delay will take so much of the time that I intended for the coloring.

The two clerks begin to argue, in French of course. But we can get the gist of the flow. The young clerk thinks that he can finish the job quickly. The older clerk could care less that we have been at this all day. Tomorrow is good enough. The young clerk wins. He starts making the remainder of our copies. We are only too glad to pay our $78.40 euros and scoot home. Not only has the copying taken all day but we are due to go on a river cruise that evening and want to have time to dress without rushing.

Donny has been searching the entire trip for the right river dinner cruise for us. He finally settles on Bateaux Parisiens. The line is pricey but it has such an elegant look that feels right for a river cruise. We leave from near the Tour Eiffel and while we dine, cruise as far as Bibliothèque up river and La Statue de la Liberté down river.

We are dining Service Select which gives us a window seat. Donny wanted Service Etiole which is window seating at the front of the boat but that was booked solid. We cruise through the sunset into the twilight, returning at darkness. Our boat is the Diamant. All the boats in the line are sleek and well appointed but you do not get to pick your ship. We saw the Saphir from a bridge earlier in our trip and drooled over its look not knowing which boat it was but simply loving its sexy appeal, so it was fun to see that it is in this fleet.

We have planned to pick up a cab after the cruise but did not book one figuring that there would be plenty. By the time we disembark, the plenty are all gone. We walk to the nearest metro to catch a train. We are pretty sure we are on the right track for our direction and board the first train. A group from England is trying to figure out whether they are going in the right direction which is the opposite from ours. I tell them what we have decided and we all figure the next stop will let us know who is faring better. Turns out we are, but none of it matters because we are all told to exit the train. Last stop for the evening!

We find ourselves walking home along the river yet one more time. La Seine, we love you!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Fini! Paris 21/07/2010 Day Ten

I. Am. Finished.

It has taken almost all day but the last sketch for the book is done. I told Donny earlier that the line was holding me up. Typical for a line to see Santa. Originally I had thought to make the line a single page and even started the sketch that way but I chided myself for being lazy. Folks that remember the era will want to see the line in all it's glory. It was almost as famous as Santa. And so I start in on the last double page spread. So many people, so many children. Their faces need that special Santa line quality. Children being anxious, bored, excited all in one look. Adults being patient, resigned, loving all in another one look.

And I have a few reindeer to tidy up. But finally the last line is drawn and I can put my pencil down. The color has me worried but not nearly as much as getting the sketches right. I am so pleased with the way the pictures tell the story thread. Donny gets a daily walk through the book and he is pleased too.

Adding color will be tomorrow's assignment. I plan to use the pastels I bought and add a bit of water to create a smooth effect. Still anything can happen. We decide that making copies of these original sketches before adding color to them will be wise. We will look seriously tomorrow but for the balance of today we will venture over to the Left Bank to stretch our legs.

As we cross the bridge behind Notre Dame I spy hundreds of locks and ribbons hooked or tied to the bridge works. Curious we look closer. They all have dates and initials. Recent dates. We decide they must be some kind of lovers' memory moment and later find out we are right.

We find a nice book store to do a bit of shopping for the three musketeers. Earlier we have gotten a cute outfit for Lydia and a soft toy for grand #6. Suddenly across the boulevard we spy a copy shop. We cross over and step inside. No one speaks English. But a customer does and explains to the clerk what we need. It is not a problem to make the copies but they close in ten minutes. Not enough time to get our sketches, yes ours, they are as much Donny's as mine, and get back to the shop. We'll come over in the morning, the shop is very close to home. Then I will have the rest of the day to begin the color process.

Back on the island we get a very cool velociraptor tooth for Martin. That covers all the grands with a Paris treat. For the adults we have gotten herbs for the guys and scarves for the gals.

It is nice to collapse in our cozy Paris flat without thinking about sketching.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Dancing in the Street 20/7/2010 Day Nine

Tuesday, packing day on our original schedule. Thankfully, I still get to draw, it would have been a frantic dash for the finish to be done by today.

I am close to finishing the sketches, but I decide that I need more art supplies before beginning the inking and coloring phase.We set out for Sennelier. Once there I scoot upstairs to get more ink pens. Back down stairs other customers have the clerks attention and I shop around. I spy a mail in for a free Sennelier apron with the purchase of 3 tubes of Sennelier acrylics. No problem (a favorite phrase among the French-in English). The problem is limiting myself. All the colors are amazing. I get more than three, there is no way I can stop there.

There is a fellow artist buying lots of paintbrushes. He is elated that most are 20% off this week. I have picked out two upstairs and even though they are not on sale I am happy with my choices and don't feel like switching out or adding to my brush count.

We catch up with a clerk and I ask her for tubes of watercolor and also gauche. These are behind the counter, no self serve as with many of the items. I then ask her for protective sheets to safely get the drawings home on the plane. She has trouble with that request but finally figures it out. At last all of my supplies are assembled and we check out.

On our way back to our island we happen upon Eglise St-Germain-des-Prés and decide to stop inside. Cathedrals are always a fascination. A group is practicing for a concert. We sit to listen. Soloists, a choir and an orchestra. We find a flyer and discover that the concert is this very evening. We go to the nave to get tickets. The ticket seller is just leaving for a break. He says that he will be back in twenty minutes. We decide to wait. When he gets back he is surprised to see us waiting. I suppose he thought we would not have the patience. We get our tickets and more literature. It is an entire summer music series. The next concerts are at Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l'lie right on our little island. Sweet! And we'll still be in town.

We walk on toward home along Blvd St-Germain. I have been keeping my eyes open for a les enfants shop on all our walks but they are not so common as before, at least not where we are. We do spot a health food store and get some things for dinner.

We cross La Seine at Pont de la Tournelle and as we round the corner onto Rue en St-Louis l'ille we practically run into a wedding party processing down the middle of the street. It is wonderful. Apparently the wedding has just happened in the church and the bride & groom and all of their guests are dancing and singing their way to our end of the island. As soon as one song ends, someone starts up another one. For four blocks we walk alongside the procession, we and many others. Finally at our street and also the end of the island, the wedding procession somewhat disperses. We turn down the street toward home wondering if they are all headed to dinner together somewhere.

We have our health store dinner, tidy up and then it's time for the concert. It is stifling hot in the church. Many buy programs more for their use as fans than for information. Still it is the a hauntingly beautiful presentation of Mozart's Requiem. Paris never disappoints.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Magic Smile! Paris 19/7/2010 Day Eight

I have read about a new shop, Magic Smile, on My Little Paris and it sounds intriguing. The concept is a tooth whitening process that takes about vingt minutes and then you're good for six months or longer. It's brand new to Paris and we anticipate a wait or maybe even needing an appointment. We try calling but the clerk only speaks limited English and so we decide to take a chance and walk over. It's in the Marais at 13 Rue Saint Sauveur, not so far.

We stroll across Pont Louis Philippe and weave our way over to Rue St Denis. No cars during special hours are the rule along much of this shop lined street. All kinds of shops from bawdy, think Bourbon St, to French fast food line the way. It's funky fun.

We find Magic Smile and quite contrary to our expectations there is only one other customer. We wait while she is set up in her egg chair and then it's our turn. The clerk speaks a little English but is glad for my help to convey to Donny what she means as I slowly figure it out. She tells me I am a good teacher when I suggest bateau to help her remember how to pronounce bottom. She is trying to explain top and bottom in reference to our mouth. She mutters something about lessons. On another trip without a looming art project this could work.

Twenty minutes later we are sparkling whiter. I consider a second treatment as the chemicals and light can only do so much but don't want to make Donny wait and he is finished. Holding your mouth open for twenty minutes is tiring.

We smile our way back to Ile St Louis stopping for a moment in the small park that surrounds the recently refurbished Tour Saint-Jacques at the intersection of Rue de Rivoli and Avenue Victoria.

It must be body enhancement day, as we make a stop at our local pharmacie just a few doors down from our flat to get some French soap for Jenn. The salesgirl sees me eying the Darphin products and begins to chat about them. I am already in love with the line and need little encouragement. She suggests three creams. They are pricey but I know they are the highest quality, still it's an investment. I ask which she would choose if she had to pick but one. All three is her wise reply. Donny says buy them. I figure that the effect of good French creams last longer than fashion. I'll take the creams and shop for fashions on our next trip.

Back upstairs we settle in for the balance of the day, a smooth wine poured by Donny and my drawing tools for some more endless sketching go well together. I draw until late. We are hungry and venture downstairs for a light dinner at our favorite cafe. It is full. We take a chance on the adjacent cafe bigger with more bustle and foot traffic but literally the next tables over.

The people beside us have ordered cokes. A very classy thing if you are French, but for Americans gauche. Donny & I, on a lark, decide to go full American tourist, not for a coke, but for lasagna and cheeseburger. In France. In Paris. Tasted pretty good.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Tribute to Virginia

Two more mismatched people could not be imagined.

It was 1970, I was in my second year of teaching at Varina HS and assigned, for the second year, to be yearbook co-sponsor. Sponsoring extra-curricular activities was part of our teacher duties. I suppose you could request an area of interest but since I was on the yearbook staff in high school, it was an okay assignment. Or so I thought until I walked into the room and saw a beautiful but well beyond my age teacher assigned as my partner. This did not look good. The year before I had been paired with a guy teacher that had his opinion of how the book should be put together and as I jumped in mid-year I went with the flow. It was a pretty dreary book but the kids were fun. I was glad to not be with him again. But this teacher looked like trouble. She probably thought the same about me.

It only took about three sentences before Virginia and I discovered that contrary to both our beliefs we no mismatch at all but a match made for each other. Neither of us would settle for anything less than perfect and that was the way it would be. We took the staff to workshop weekends, taught them how to take pictures, crop pictures, write copy and layout a decent book. The staff spent countless hours and days at the Mistr farm, where Slim & Virginia fed us and put up with us, getting everything right. Class time was just not enough.

It worked. Our book went from uninspired to trophy winning in just one year. We were elated. But never one to rest on our laurels, the next year we let the staff go for the big kahuna. They really wanted a tie-dye cover. We checked with our publisher, the American Yearbook Company. Yes, they could build the book with tie-dyed cloth we provided. That's all any of us needed. Nothing was impossible, not even hand tie-dying 500+ yearbook covers. They all looked to me to figure out the logistics, after all I was the art teacher. Easy enough. One step at a time.

We took a weekend field trip to the mountain corduroy fabric outlet where we bought bolts of cheap uncut non-dyed corduroy. Back home in Varina, we cut the cloth into rectangles. Then the dying began. Not to be satisfied with just one color, we had to have two. And so first we gathered by hand one at a time, several spot areas of each of those 500+ rectangles, dipped a spoonful of green dye into the middle and bound the spot with a rubber band. Then more rubber bands were applied to the rectangles until we had a knotted ball of sorts. These were then dropped into huge vats of blue dye. All of this was done on the Mistr's farm using their big kettles set up in the yard. No other way could we have accomplished such a huge task.

After the balls were dyed and removed from the hot dye the rubber bands were removed and each piece ironed flat, boxed and shipped to AYC where they worked their magic and made our yearbook into yet another winner.

Of course, even with the tie-dye cover the book only became a winner with someone like Virginia keeping her sharp pencil at the ready to fix any bad or wrong copy. We were fortunate to have Jim Mahone write most of our copy. His quick wit and way of saying much with just a few words was a dream for any yearbook to have on board. He went so far as to write his copy and captions on graph paper so that he could instantly know how many letters and spaces he had used. His own form of personal computer (his brain) letter count.

Virginia and I remained friends long after I quit teaching to have Emily, which was actually during the great tie-dye experience. I had to quit teaching at four months. I got an extension to stay until six months which coincided with Easter but after that I had to leave. Of course everyone knew I was pregnant but policy was policy. I could have come back the following year but Donny & I were fortunate enough to be able to let me stay home with the kids as they came along.

Donny & I moved into Slim & Virginia's tenant house a few months after Emily was born and there we lived until we bought our first house, just around the corner at 54 Oakland Road, when Emily was 5 and Donald 3.

Slim & Virginia were unique people who crossed generation barriers with ease. They were simply a delightful couple who loved life. Virginia was a go to school and get your degree after the kids are grown mom. So actually she was as new to teaching as I was. We just came in through different doors.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Never on Sunday 18/7/10 Day Seven

Sunday brings me back to the drawing table and my never ending never project. The name came about when good friend Katelyn Rea was commenting on orientation at East Carolina. She said so many kids were breathing sighs of relief to be there, proclaiming that the school was their first, second choice. She said she just looked at them and said that it was her never choice. She never wanted to go there. She was even pretty sure that her folks finished her application.

That's it I tell her since my project had been in the conversation too. It's my never project. I never wanted to do it. It just fell into my lap. I do admit that things falling into my lap is my preferred form of work. But even with a project tossed at you there is still a choice. And for this one I was quite content to say that it sounded interesting but no thanks. You know how sometimes you say those things but you're secretly hoping for a different outcome. Well, I really did not care. It was completely fine with me if I was never a part of the project. It was a fun idea, but I had plenty of other things on my schedule.

Well, things didn't exactly turn out like I thought they would. The author's vision of a mother-son collaborative which I firmly supported was off the table. The publisher wanted my work. In a moment of weakness, I had sent the author some sketches to include with her original proposal to the publisher so that it would look fuller, never expecting that to go anywhere.

But go it did and when I finally realized that not only was I the illustrator of choice but also that the book was on track to actually be published, my ego had stepped in and accepted the challenge.

The project had a short deadline made even more so by indecision about the illustrator. Hence, Donny suggested Paris for full focus sketching. Never would I diss that idea. As I got into the project it began to grow on me. I would never have taken it on, ego or no, if I had not been interested. But I was very apprehensive about drawing Santa. He cannot be just thrown out there. He has to look right, really right. The sketch of a Santa scene that I had submitted to the publisher when they asked for more samples still haunts me. It seemed fine at the time, but now when I look at it, I see a pigmy Santa. Just. Wrong.

Today I am pleased. Santa, and the scenes, are looking very good. And I am getting close to the last pages. But enough for one day. We dress for a quick dinner downstairs. We usually eat outside at one of the four two seater tables. But they are all occupied and so we go inside and get a table. Midway through our meal a family comes in. A twenty something who has a Winona Ryder look is among them. I comment to Donny that it is surprising that she would be content to wear an ordinary hoodie in Paris. I wonder if her eyelashes are real, they are so long. Perhaps I stare, I don't know. It's an annoying Jett trait that can cause trouble. They are sitting not exactly next to us, but quite near. It is a very small cafe.

We are eating our dessert when this gal pops up from her seat (I never saw this) and suddenly she is in my face shouting did I have a problem with her and some other English words (no cussing) that I do not recall. And she turns and walks away. The family is still eating their dinner. She has moved to a seat farther away from us. Donny and I try not to laugh for fear of offending her more. Donny has just made a comment prior to her outburst about the little sister looking like Wednesday from the Addams Family.

Never a dull moment in Paris.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Walkin' in Paris 17/7/10 Day Six

A day off! I have been drawing almost steadily for four days straight. Time. For. A. Break.

Even though I have not finished blocking in the entire book, I am close enough to the end to finally treat myself to a big set of Sennelier pastels. Em & fam gave me a nice set for Christmas but I did not want to pack them plus I wanted to see what Paris offered.

First it's off to Sennelier located along the Seine on the fringes of the Left Bank. It is such a wonderful art store. Emily & I shopped here when she & Marty brought me to Paris. The store reminds Donny & me of Welch-Anderson, a former art store in Richmond where you could buy anything and everything related to art. The aisles were tiny and the shelves full of all sorts of art wonderment.

A nice walk along the river brings us to Sennelier and the shopping begins. Most of the clerks do not speak English so there is a lot of gesturing and pointing. The aisles are even smaller than Welch-Anderson's, the only thing spacious here being the high ceilings. The stairs are tiny, circular events. Donny elects to wait while I go up to the second and third floors seeing what is available up there. I locate the disposable ink pens on the third floor and make my selection. The clerk needs to write up a ticket for me to present downstairs at the main counter. There I explain that I want pastels. Whole, half? Oil, water? The clerk brings me a box. Bigger, I indicate. He brings another. Again, bigger. He smiles and heads to the storage room where he returns with the perfect size box. I select a few tubes of watercolor too because my home supply is low. We pay and head across the Seine toward Rue de Rivoli and Angelina's.

It's hot chocolate time at Proust's favorite watering hole. We get a pot of Chocolat African plus a Mont Blanc to share and later partake of cafe to ease the massive sugar intake.

By this time it is close to dix-sept heures and we are worried that Fachon will close before we can get there. We are on an herb acquisition mission. It is not far and we start power walking. We round a bend of a side street and spy what we decide is the Palais Garnier also known as the Opera. We need to be near La Madeleine which is a few blocks to the left of the Opera. We start walking faster. The streets are like bicycle spokes and you cannot see what is around a corner or even if you are headed in the right direction. We have a map and try to consult it while still walking. We identify where we are and come out around the square from Fachon. To the right is La Madeleine looking suspiciously like the building we had hastily identified as the Opera. Suddenly I remember, the Opera de Paris has a dome, this building does not. We were in the right place before!

We rush around the circle and into Fachon. There is only prepared food for sale. I ask a clerk where the herbs are. Across the way she points. We have sailed right by the part of Fachon we need. It is only two stores away. We hurry over and in. Ah. Not much time to spare though. We know what we want and find the herb section. We are sad to see the fun pottery containers are now glass. I ask and the clerk says that it is true, the low fire ceramic pots are a thing of the past. We make our purchase helping to close the store.

We stroll homeward along Rue de Rivoli. We see many Art Deco buildings with the Samaritaine marque. Cousins I suppose to the main store that graced the Seine before it was closed in 2005. We pass Cafe Benjamin and take a picture for Benjamin. We reach Pont Louis Phillippe and cross to home where we unload and head downstairs for dinner.

Not once did I pick up a pencil today! Yay!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Paris 16/7/2010 Day Five

I am very excited to have dreamed how to present the traditional Santaland scene in a new light. This part of the book was tentatively supposed to be illustrations of chairs and decorations but that format was just not evolving to my satisfaction and so I opted to cover all the bases by showing the entire scene instead of vinettes. That was coming together better but still not creative enough for children and it was really bothering me when I went to sleep. It was so blah.

Now, I position the refreshed reindeer in the foreground viewing the newly created Santaland with utter delight. Blitzen is trying to tell her good friend the Snow Queen (she is going to be Maid of Honor in the Snow Queen's wedding) an idea that she dreamed about for the wedding but the Snow Queen is so enchanted over her new chair that she does not hear her. The other reindeer are talking among themselves oohing and aahing over everything they see. The drawing is perfect! Still so many pages to go though, including the line. I could draw out of sequence but choose to follow the story thread as it unfolds so I am only halfway there.

Donny has a plan. "Let's stay longer."

I am delighted. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well, if we stay until Friday that is only two more days but the following Monday will let us see the end of the Tour de France."

"And allow time to complete the illustrations in Paris," I have already resigned to putting color on back at home although I want to buy supplies in France. "Let's do it!"

"What about your show?"

"I'll call Glenn and let them know." I have two big prints yet to pull but Glenn had said that Jason might pull one and if that happens good, if not, no worries. Like Pat says, I'm easy to get along with.

Donny gets to work making the ticket changes and I make a few phone calls. Everyone is surprised to get a call from Paris. Mobile goes right through. Mindful of the cost all chats are quick and to the point.

I get a text from Jessica asking about the art show. It is fun to text her back that we are in Paris.

Later in the day we venture out for a stretch. After all, hours of art broken only for some erotic moments (we are in Paris, we must keep up with the lovers) need a change of pace.

We view the stunning sunset from our bridge. We wander across to the Right Bank and stroll a bit. Finally we settle on Chez Julien for dinner. It's late but everyone eats very late on weekends. We pick an outside table and proceed to have a delightful and very French meal.

Later after cafe and paying we start across the rue toward home. Suddenly I decide to take a picture of the restaurant, it looks so charming. We turn back. Our waiter is finished for the evening and is enjoying a smoke. He tells us that Chez Julien was the setting for the filming of a Gossip Girls episode last week. We ask if he was in it. He tells us no but doesn't seem disappointed. He suggests that we go inside and look around. He tells us that the restaurant has been in that location since the turn of the century. He also tells us the Paris Plages are due to open on Sunday, just across the way. Bikini time!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Paris 15/7/2010 Day Four

Back to our Paris on a Whim adventure.

This turns out to be the longest working day yet. We venture out once. I decide that I need a hat to keep the inspiration going. We find a fun floral one on sale at Le Grain de Sable, une boutique d'accessories de mode sacs, bijoux, chaupeux at Rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile.

Back in the flat, I work and work. Reindeer have so many legs! And they must look like reindeer not dogs. I am good with some animals but reindeer are a whole new game. I am sketching in the art frames at this point. Pencil only, and erasing, lots of erasing.

Donny sits quietly not breaking my concentration. I get so into the frame that my mind has conversations with the characters. Vixen is annoyed that her manicure and pedicure are suffering with all the touring they are doing. Prancer, her good friend and flying companion, tells her to get a grip. She'll treat Vixen to both when they get home.

Donner & Blitzen are just not coming together like I want and so I move on to the next frame which involves the team again but smaller and is almost a repeat of a sample I sent to THP earlier.

Sketch, sketch, sketch. My goal is to have the pencil drawings done by the weekend and then allow myself the treat of going to the art store for pastels to add the color.

The photos have come for the store scenes and I block those in. The clock scene is not working out well and when I finally get it to my satisfaction, the clock, which is really high on the wall, has moved out of the picture. I like what I have blocked in and since the information desk is there I decide that, time being of the essence, everyone will know where they are anyway. It was a popular M&R meeting spot, although our family preferred meeting on the balcony which was a great relaxing spot to meet, not so the busy clock area.

We take a dinner break, going downstairs to the tiny cafe next door for a quick bite. Then it's back to my beautiful hat and eternal drawing. Whoever decided that a 50/50 profit split between writer and artist for a childrens' book was an equitable split definitely was the writer.

Tuna & Lion

They really do look out for each other but there are times, many times by cousin Jake's reckoning, that it is not so apparent.

This clip from The Other Guy starts slow but gets rolling pretty quickly. And when it does, it describes their personalities better than any words could.

Donny, Jake and I took in this movie the day after the younger campers left. Jake and I exchanged knowing glances as the tuna & lion scene unfolded. Yup, Martin and Lydia to a tee.

Every time I watch it now, it brings up a big chuckle. Martin will go to great extremes to cover his story. And Lydia usually has that Mark Wahlberg's character look but gets in the last punch.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Kind of Animal

Taking a break from writing about Paris adventures while Camp OBX is in session, I feel the need to add this one to the blog thread.

Leaving Jockey's Ridge today where we had lots of fun doing the usual Jockey's Ridge things; climbing dunes, running down dunes. sliding down dunes, writing in the sand, all the traditional things, we decide to take the sand route alongside the boardwalk back to the car.

It is a compromise from Jake's need to trudge some more in the sand and Lydia's need to get back fast. Martin, for once, does not care. When we run out of the sand trail, we proceed to climb over the rail. At about this juncture a small kid, 3 years or so, comes along going to the dunes with his folks.

He shrieks and points, "What kind of animal is that?"

In his low key non-excitable voice, Jake says to me, "I think he is talking about us."

I then say to young one and his family, "Dirty human animals."

Lydia, the last one over the rail and stuck on top at this point, which probably initiated the kid's reaction, yells, "Grandma, you're embarrassing me!"

Monday, August 02, 2010

Paris 14/7/2010 Day Three

It's Bastille Day or as the French call it 14 Juillet. We have been reminded about the official day of celebration by Donny's bff, Dale. Donny says that besides his immediate family, he has known no one else as long as he has known gal pal Dale.

Thanks to Dale's heads up, Donny has made reservations for us at Restaurant 58 on the first level of the Tour Eiffel for the evening so that we can see the fireworks from the tower.

Our day starts with us being awakened to the sounds of planes droning overhead. It seems as though they are going to land in our street. I leap out of bed shouting, "It's a fly over!"

And it is. I grab my iphone and my camera and get some wonderful shots. Because of the view from our window up through the surrounding buildings it makes me think of how the French must have felt during the war. The flyover is spread out over about an hour because the weather is so bad, we later find out, that they have to wait for a clearing in the cloud cover.

I work until it is time to dress for dinner. Donny has hired a cab which meets us downstairs. The cab driver has an awful time getting us close to the tower because streets are blocked off for the firework display due to start at 11PM. We don't mind walking and get to see a very eclectic building covered deliberately in growing plants.

We reach the tower and check in at the Restaurant 58 ticket window. We are told that we will be riding up in the employees' elevator because the tower is closed to the general public today because of the fireworks. We are escorted into the guts of the tower where the elevator is located. There are other people also going to dinner and lots of service people. The ride up is impressive. The elevator is glass so we can see everything.

Donny tried to get us a window table but they were all sold out but he was assured that we would have a good view and we do. Dinner is quite exotic. It is a planned menu so all we need do is eat. Which is almost hard to do because the presentation is so beautiful. The food tastes as good as it looks and we nibble and sip our way through all the courses finishing just in time for the firework display. It gets dark so late that 23 hours in not an unreasonable time for the display to start.

It is amazing looking down on fireworks. Some explode at window level, some below and a few above. It is quite a production and we are glad not to have missed it, although a French gentleman at the table next to us says that it is not as good as last year's.

We plan to hail a cab to take us back to Ile St Louis after dinner but that proves difficult. It is a chilly evening and I buy a scarf from a street vendor. We ask how far it is to walk to Ile St Louis. He tells us far but not complicated, go to the corner, turn right and keep walking. It turns out to be a pleasant walk and not really all that long, about 5 kilometers.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Paris 13/7/2010 Day Two

We sleep until we awaken, around midday sometime, maybe later. I do not remember and we don't care. We are not on anyone's clock but our own. We have been to Paris enough times by now to be able to truly enjoy the flavor of the city without rushing around to see the famous highlights.

And besides it's time to get to work. This is after all a working vacation. Sight unseen my remarkable husband has procured us an apartment with not only north light but also a perfect art table.

The table, which is actually a dining table, adjusts in height and also the top folds out to double the size. The top then is cleverly rotated so that the legs remain centered. We know how to do this from recently figuring out the secret to my grandmother's card table which does the same thing.

At first I had set my things up at the desk in the corner, nice but not facing the window, when I happened to take a harder look at the table which was folded and low serving as a coffee table. This unfolds I think and then Donny discovers that the height can be adjusted. We set it to our liking and are delighted that there is room for me to spread out and Donny to set up his computer.

Like I said sight unseen he has found us the perfect apartment for this trip. He did request an inside apartment overlooking a courtyard which is completely wonderful. But the rest just came together.

I work for a few hours and then we head out for groceries. I have started the project while at home but got stopped by lack of reference material. For this book I needed photos of Miller & Rhoads during the 1940's or as close as possible. And because of the impending deadline I needed easy to identify departments within the store. The folks at the Virginia Historical Society had been most helpful in getting me these types of pictures but with vacations and such I had not been able to get the digital files I needed before I left. Since their preferred method of payment was by phone and since by now I was out of the country I did not want to make a call if I could help it. So Jamie said he would do what he could to get me a secure way to use my credit card and I believed him but I was still waiting. So I put away my work early.

We are more awake today and find our favorite grocery located not far at all from our flat. We buy more supplies and then fresh bread from the bakery across the street. We take our groceries home in our own tote we have brought to be more ecological responsible and unpack. Later we go out again strolling and stopping at one of our favorite restaurants on the island, Auberge de la Rhine Blanche, for dinner.

It did not disappoint although we were sad not to see our good friend who always waits on us. The girl that did wait on us, did not speak enough English to understand that we were asking about our friend so we do not know if she was on holiday or what. She owned the restaurant with her husband who was still there cooking but we never met him and so perhaps next trip she will be back. They do have children so maybe she is doing things with them.

After dinner and more strolling we stop in a bar for a nightcap of cognac. We wanted Remy Martin but settled for what was available and it was quite nice. While we were sipping our drink, two guys came in and ordered Jaeger bombs, a shot of Jaeger and Red Bull. I have heard about these but never seen one mixed. They way they did it was fun. The bartender put the Red Bull into two glasses then floated a shot glass of Jaeger in each full glass. These were lined up touching side by side. Then an empty glass was turned upside down beside the set ups. One guy hits the empty glass which causes the shots to tip into the Red Bull. The drinkers grab up their glasses and down the entire mix just like a shot. They did this twice and seeing my intrigue invited us to join them but we declined.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Paris! 12/7/2010 Day One

We've made it to Paris, finally! Donny has rented us a wonderful apartment at 12 rue Jean du Bellay on Ile St Louis. It is on the second floor, actually third, and overlooks an interior courtyard. We have taken a night flight from DC via Air France traveling the new class, Premium Voyageur, which means leg room for my tall guy.

 The flight is fine but the plane sounds like a bucket of bolts. Still I'm not worried just tired. I sleep most of the way. We land on time and after getting our bags which beat us off the plane, another bonus from Premium Voyageur travel, we head onto the concourse for the trains. It's a long walk but not a problem. We locate the RER ticket booth after walking around the huge room completely. We cannot get tickets at a kiosk because we do not have a European credit card which has a chip. We only have an American credit cards with the magnetic strip. The line is really long but there is nothing to do but queue up and so I do, sending Donny to find a bench because it's really hot and I can manage the line okay. No need for him to melt.

After being in line for about fifteen minutes I discover that I am in the line for out of town tickets and quickly switch to the line for tickets into Paris, which is much shorter. I get our tickets and we go to the train level. We want an express RER and think we are getting on one which we are, but it turns out to be a very slow express. We almost may as well have taken a local.

We eventually reach our stop, St Michel. By this time the train is packed, but we wiggle our way off with our luggage and randomly chose the sortie that is the farthest away from our destination. Ah well, it is a balmy afternoon in Paris and we have notified Eric that we will be running a bit late. At first we are slightly confused as to our orientation. I know we are near the Seine but cannot see it and we are so tired that we really don't want to take any steps in the wrong direction. We make a choice and a half a block along we clear a tall building to see a great sight, Notre Dame close by.

We are only about a block away from the church and Ile St Louis is just beyond. We are traveling pretty lightly considering what we see some people with and in no time meet up with Eric who introduces us to the apartment, our new home in Paris for 10 days.

We settle in and hop downstairs for a bit of dinner at the next door tiny cafe and take a short stroll around part of the island. We find a green grocer but it is not our favorite one, still it's handy and we buy a few items before heading home to bed. it's hard to believe that a day earlier we were driving to Washington from the OBX. It is a hot evening. There is no air conditioning but we do have a fan, and two large almost floor to ceiling windows that swing open. We are happy for that. We fall asleep to the sounds of the city. Happy Birthday, Emily!!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Letters Home

I originally posted this story on Facebook but wanted to add it to my blog postings.  There are two parts. First is a small series of letters home which I recently came across in stuff from Mom's estate. The second part is about the room I was living in when I wrote the notes home.

To set the scene, in 1964 between my sophomore and junior years at RPI (now VCU and huge, but then small and housed for the most part in turn of the century former homes in Richmond's fan district), I stuck around for summer school. Here are some hilarious excerpts from letters home (the family was in the DC area and we did not make many phone calls. Dad couldn't bear to pay long distance rates and so communication was almost always by letter).

First letter: "Well, got settled, but I am about to go blind. I guess I'll go to Sears tomorrow and get a study lamp. Also do you have any curtains? I can use just cafe type. Never mind about the lamp. I found one in the maid's closet. I need a fan. Do you still have that tiny one? Are you using it? If not could you send it by someone sometime soon." The letter goes on to talk about my room. I was living in Scherer Hall, pictured above, on the second floor in a single room directly over the front entrance and overlooking Franklin Street. It had a sink in the closet which was almost as big as the room itself which was small but adequate. I hand picked the room, mostly for the sink. It was great to be able to brush your teeth or do your hand washing without going down the hall to the community bathroom. A friend had lived in it and was graduating and so it was available for summer school.

Second letter: "Don't you ever talk to me about writing again. Not only have I been looking for a letter but also my grades. You know I want them when they come. I'm about to die of heat because you haven't let me know about the fan. I'm giving a lovely view to all of Franklin Street because you haven't let me know about the curtains." (then there is chatter about different summer job interviews and how all of that is going. I was always on the edge of running out of money. In one later letter I tell about dropping a class, one I really liked too, because we had to buy a year's worth of supplies up front). Back to this letter, after suggesting that my parents take my sister and brother to see a current movie I think they will enjoy, it closes with, "Don't look for any more letters from me until I get one."

The third letter is very long and chats about classes and the continued job searches. And there is conversation about my regular year dorm mates that live across the street for the summer in an apartment in one of those old grand houses. It ends with, "PS PLEASE (lots of underlines) see about fan. It was only 100 degrees today and VERY (more underlines) humid. Love, Me"

There are many more letters. I wrote a LOT of letters and I think Mom saved them all. Everyone saved them. Donny's sister, Judy, sent us a bunch when she closed up former mother-in-law, Irene's, home. It seems that I wrote her many letters after the children started coming along telling her about what they were doing and so forth. Always a writer apparently, that's me.

The story about my room unfolds like this. One night I put some clothes in the closet sink to soak; but, I by mistake did not completely turn off the water. I was awakened the next morning by a frantic maid banging on my door. I lept out of bed into literally inches of water (no exaggeration). The maid tells me that there is water dripping from the ceiling of the parlor underneath my room. I truly do not remember how we got all the water off the floor. I somewhat remember getting a broom and sweeping the water into the hall, spreading it out until it was shallow enough to mop up. The maid took pity on me and helped. I was so worried that there would be a stain on the ceiling below, or that the electrical system would be compromised and I would be caught without a good explanation other than neglect. But no one was ever the wiser, thanks to the maid and my tell tale drip. My record collection which I had standing in a stack on the floor even survived without any warping.

Until next installment,